A HISTORIC listed building is undergoing a major renovation ahead of its opening as a boutique hotel later this year.

The Old Shire Hall in Durham is being converted into an 83-bed Hotel Indigo, which will also have a Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar and Grill and coffee shop.

The £15million redevelopment of the Grade II listed building in Old Elvet, which has been unoccupied for around five years, has been ongoing since the start of the year and is expected to be completed in the coming months.

General manager Paul Borg, who has been working at the site for seven weeks, said: “We can see huge improvements week on week. Things are going at a pace.”

The richly ornate interior, which features dozens of stained glass windows, an elaborately tiled main staircase and wood panelling, will be retained to try and keep the historical feel of the building.

While work is ongoing to convert former office space into bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms, much of the historic detail is under the cover of plywood to ensure it is protected from damage.

Mr Borg added: “We want to have everything in keeping with the building. It’s important for us – we’re here to enhance it.”

The building was built in the 1890s for Durham County Council, and was home to the authority until it moved to County Hall in the 1960s.

It then became the administration centre for Durham University until 2012, since which time it has been empty.

One of the most decorated rooms, the former council chamber, which was later used by Durham University’s decision-making senate is being converted into a 100-cover restaurant with adjacent cocktail bar.

Marketing manager Luke Balcombe said: “Part of our brand is for each individual hotel to have its own neighbourhood story.

“Durham is very much a historic city so we wanted to reflect that.”

He added: “It’s so exciting for us with the building. We have worked in hotels before but nothing like this. It’s so different.

“It’s been empty for such a long time it’s a shame when it’s such a beautiful building.”

It is planned for each of the bedrooms to have either an academic or cathedral theme in a bid to reflect Durham’s history.

The hotel is expected to create around 60 jobs, with recruitment due to start within the next few weeks imgID119401507.jpg.gallery

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